Logan Lerman, Brandon T. Jackson, Alexandra Daddario and Jake Abel kicked off their first national press tour in San Francisco, where they sat together to discuss their roles in the hopeful franchise launcher Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief. Lerman—recently rumored as a potential Peter Parker in the rebooted Spider-Man franchise—had high-profile roles as Christian Bale's son in 3:10 to Yuma and as the young George Hamilton in last year's My One and Only. He first rose to prominence as Bobby McCallister on the critically acclaimed WB series Jack & Bobby, and his other films include Gamer, Bill, The Number 23, Hoot and The Patriot. Best known as Alpa Chino in Ben Stiller's Tropic Thunder, Brandon T. Jackson also made prominent appearances in Roll Bounce and Tooth Fairy. Alexandra Daddario cut her teeth in forty-three episodes of All My Children, moving on to guest appearances on Law & Order, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Damages, and Nurse Jackie; she also has a recurring role on White Collar. Jake Abel played Brian Nelson in Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones, Greg Kinnear's son in Flash of Genius, and Adam Milligan in the much-buzzed-about "Jump the Shark" episode of Supernatural. In Percy Jackson..., the quartet take on conspicuously out-of-the-ordinary characters: Lerman plays the titular son of Poseidon; Jackson plays loyal satyr Grover; Daddario plays Annabeth, daughter of Athena; and Abel plays Luke, son of Hermes. I spoke to the foursome at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.
Groucho: So tell me about the ups and downs of being demigods. What are the highs and the drags—and being "satyr"ical in your case?
Brandon T. Jackson: Yeah, thank you. I’m happy you know the difference. A lot of people think—
Logan Lerman: Well, literally or as characters?
Groucho: I guess both.
Logan Lerman: Both?
LL: Well as characters, being a demigod, there’s a lot of training involved, right? You have to, you know—all of these guys have inherited abilities, like being able to swordfight and—
Alexandra Daddario: Archery.
LL: Archery. And yeah, learning how to fly for the movie.
Alexandra Daddario: Lot of wirework for these guys.
LL: It was very physically demanding learning how to do all of this for this role.
Brandon T. Jackson: We all had to do physical training. You know, everybody had to work out in the weight room at night. I don’t know if you know, we’re a little bit bigger in the film.
LL: We had to work hard to get—I’m a little guy.
BTJ: We’re all, like, skinny now.
JA: Playing Horse in the gym.
AD: They even had a makeshift gym, next to the trailers.
LL: So I could lift weights at lunch.
BTJ: I still work out, and it still doesn’t work for me. Only on that film, that one—that big—but yeah, there was a lot of physical training on the movie, yeah…
LL: The whole meaning of the story is that you can relate to them. And, just to use Percy as an example—cause he’s my character, I guess I’ll just talk about him—
LL: I mean, yeah, Luke, you know— (Laughs.) Speak for your character. No, Percy: the reason why he’s so relatable is he’s your average Joe. He’s your teenager that everybody can relate to. He’s got problems like anyone else. He has disabilities; he has ADHD and dyslexia. His parents are separated. And, you know, he kinda looks down upon himself. But then he finds out that he’s the son of Poseidon. He’s not who he thought he was. And his disabilities and everything kind of works to his advantage. So it’s very relatable on that level, for everybody. Anybody else?
BTJ: I mean, the question for me, you know—I mean, the answer ’cause I’m trying to make sure that—is that basically—I mean, relating a satyr to kids right now is like: he’s sixteen years old, but he’s thirty-two. That’s in satyr years; they age differently. So it’s like you got—you think he’s like with crutches, he’s got a disability ’cause he’s in the same school as Percy, this school where kids aren’t accepted, this school where, you know what I mean? You’re not that cool, you know? Pretty much hipsters, in making. But, um—that’s kind of a joke, if you know what hipsters are.
BTJ: People don’t fit in, but at the same time, it’s like, you have to relate. It’s your best friend, but now he’s your protector. And [Percy] doesn’t understand that [Grover’s his] protector. It’s like [Grover] has crutches and different things like that, where he [has] a disability. So it’s good to relate to kids who are not accepted, you know what I mean? It’s good to go to people who need that help, and it’s like you realize that what’s inside of you—your greatest weakness can be your greatest strength. And that’s the big picture about this movie is finding that thing inside you that you can say, “I may not be good at this, but I’m extraordinary at this. You know what I mean? And that’s what it is about, this film, is finding the magic inside you and really, really captivating it and making yourself amazing.
LL: Yeah. And just to sum it up in one sentence, it’s just “Embrace yourself and find adventure in your life, you know?
BTJ: Yeah, definitely.
AD: I mean, they’re warriors, but there’s also very relatable things that they go through, you know. I’ve never met my mother. Percy’s never met his father. And you can still find strength within yourself despite the difficulties and struggles you go through in your regular life.
G: Now, Chris is not joining us today, so—
BTJ: He’s cuttin’ the movie still. (Laughs.)
LL: The movie’s not finished.
AD: He’s been working through the night; he probably hasn’t slept.
LL: The movie’s still not finished. It’s gonna be done, probably this week.
G: This is your chance to dish on Chris. Any complaints for your director?
BTJ: He’s too good!
Jake Abel: He’s awesome.
BTJ: He is too damn good.
Jake Abel: He’s too positive. He’s too fun to work with.
AD: Nicest guy.
JA: Nicest guy in the world.
LL: It’s the most collaborative experience because he draws you into the whole making of the film. He makes you involved.
AD: He really does.
JA: He loves filmmaking so much that he wants everyone else to enjoy it as much as he does, I feel like.
BTJ: Mm-hm. Mm-hm. It’s true.
JA: He allows that to—he breeds that in you.
AD: He approaches it a little bit like a kid. Like our first day on set, we were rehearsing and he was just
like “This is so much fun!” You know, he just gets so excited about the project and really excited to start working on it.
LL: And we all went to Chuck E. Cheese after.
LL: Yeah. We had a great time.
AD: And we had a balloon party.
AD: The party was out of this—amazing.
BTJ: The party was at Chuck E. Cheese.
LL: The balloon party?
AD: To think of all those inflatable balloons at the kids party?
BTJ: Oh! (Laughs.) Sorry guys. We have a lot of fun.
BTJ: We have a lot of fun.
G: I was gonna say, that enthusiasm that he breeds, you know, it sounds infectious. And I know, Logan, you’ve made some short films in the past, and—
LL: No, no, no. Those are, those are—you know.
LL: Learning experience—you know what I mean? Instead of going out there and doing other things as a little kid—you know, make short films.
LL: I wasn’t a kid who was playing baseball all the time.
G: Right. But do any of you have aspirations to maybe one day direct in the future?
BTJ: I want to direct shorts, start again directing shorts. I directed this little thing for Funny or Die, with me and Eve, making fun of [New] Moon. We’ll see how that works. And with me and Ben Lyons, we did this funny thing. But Ben Stiller really—he really sparked something in me. I really love directing comedy; I think I wanna direct comedy one day. And play in it too. I love that. I understand it.
LL: First, I want to get my cologne out there first.
LL: And then—
AD: My record album.
LL: And then I make—
JA: Clothing line.
BTJ: Percy Jackson clothing?
AD: Actually working with the three of them was really interesting because they're all really—just to give you guys a compliment—you guys have a really interesting take on film, and they're all really passionate about it.
JA: All cinephiles, I think.
AD: I can see all three of them going into different aspects of the business.
LL: Just to speak for myself for a second—
BTJ: I’d be a boom guy.
LL: You know, acting’s the hobby. You know, you can't take this job too seriously. We're the guys that pretend to be other people, which is a lot of fun. But the art is in filmmaking. The real genius. And, you know, being a fan of movies, studying every single film, every little aspect of film—I mean, yeah, my dream really, my job, my goal in life is to be a good filmmaker. But the acting is just something we would do every day, I'd say, but now we get to get paid for it.
BTJ: Let me ask you, would you ever—I’m asking—I know, lots of interview—would you ever direct and act in your film?
BTJ: Wouldn’t that be cool?
LL: Yeah, no, I mean, it’s a little bit more difficult, though. ’Cause I like the opinions. I like the—I’m all about opinions, and people speaking their minds, so it’d be a very collaborative experience if I ever had to be in my own film.
JA: Yeah, if you’re going to sea, it’s good to have a captain.
LL: Yeah! No, I—
JA: If you’re going to sea—’cause it’s hard to be objective.
LL: Just let everybody talk.You know, it’s great to have everybody get in their opinion.
BTJ: I’ve seen it done. Ben would go in front of the camera, act, and go back. I’m like “This is weird.”
LL: Well, visually it’s different ’cause that’s got to be your vision.
BTJ: Mm-hm. Yeah.
LL: The way you want the movie to look is different. But performance is—it’d be weird to direct yourself. I want other people to give their opinions as to who the character should be.
BTJ: It’s crazy.
LL: To have a performance director there too.
G: Uh-huh. A trusted acting coach.
LL: Yeah. Oh yeah.
JA: Or a trusted friend who—
LL: Someone to give opinions.
BTJ: Or a writer—in comedy, you have your writer friends—like “Dude, no.” (Laughs.)
LL: The filmmaking process is all a discovery, y’know? You don’t go in there knowing exactly what you’re going to do. And if you do, you’re pigeonholed into doing one thing every time.
BTJ: That’s true.
LL: And that’s not what it’s about. It’s a discovery.
JA: You have to surprise yourself.
LL: Yeah! You surprise everybody. Everybody. You just figure out what works.
BTJ: You know what I did discover on this movie? For my character, for me as an actor? Since you’re talking about discovery—he’s sparking things inside of me. Is just kind of more of my rhythm, to acting. You know what I mean? ’Cause you can get certain lines here, in movies, and lines there, but when you have a long—...we’re all carrying this movie. All of us have never really—[if I’m] not…mistaken—carried a movie like that. And Logan and Jake and Alex did such a great job with just—everyone’s acting and really carrying the movie. So it’s really cool, because, you know, it’s like we’re not just in certain scenes. It’s like we’re all going on this venture.
LL: Just to address something I guess we haven’t talked about yet in these interviews—it’s kind of on topic, I guess. But one thing about these films is it’s really easy to play a character and not have a performance at all. It’s all about the looks and saying the line—“ahnaa…”
LL: But we were all very serious about—yeah, “Whooaa!” Yeah, that’s it.
BTJ: “Oo! Ah!”
LL: No, we were all really serious about making sure we all have characters. Solid characters that people can—
JA: I think we made a literal handshake—
BTJ: You remember that? We did!
BTJ: And we were right.
LL: Yeah, yeah, we did. We’d all go out to dinner and be like “We are not—”
BTJ: “Let’s not make a wack movie here.”
LL: “We’re not doing the good-looking, y’know, ‘let’s pucker our lips’ for camera film”
JA: We did realize that it was a fantastic world, but we wanted it to be as real as possible in a fantastic world…
G: What sequence was the most entertaining to film? Did you ever get the giggles shooting a certain scene?
LL: Oh, yeah, all the time, all the time, especially if it was long hours.
AD: By the end of the day you start to get a little—
AD: And everyone gets to be even more hilarious as the day goes on.
BTJ: These guys are funny. Hilarious.
LL: I'd say the times when we were laughing the most would be—
JA: Lotus Land?
LL: No, not even then. I mean, mainly just because it was so late. We'd have to do all night shoots, like starting at like 7 and ending at like 5 o'clock in the morning, so we're all out of it and so kooky because we're trying to stay up on caffeine, and we're just off doing— I don't even know what we were doing, we were just laughing for no reason.
AD: And it keeps it more fun. No one wants to get like, "Oh I'm so tired. I'm in such a bad mood." You know we were always really excited and tried to keep it.
BTJ: I don’t even remember what we shot, what happened!
JA: I don't remember five months of filming.
BTJ: Me neither! It seemed like it just went by but it was definitely five months. I lost a girlfriend over this movie.
BTJ: So you guys go see this movie!
AD: We were sacrifices.
LL: See this movie for Brandon’s love life.
AJ: I got a girlfriend during this movie.
AD: Also, we were talking about this earlier, like cut-outs of the creatures. At first they would have cut-outs, like cardboard cut-outs with drawings on them that were just so hilarious. So we ruined a lot of shots like that. It's almost better to have the little red blinking dot—
BTJ: “A tiger, kids! Get scared!”
LL: I think they're more for reference for visual effects later on but we ended up just putting, like, pink underwear on the Minotaur cut-out that's like thirty feet tall or whatever it is. Fifteen feet tall, I dunno; it was kinda funny.
AD: I wonder what happened to that.
JA: It was a million feet tall; it was huge.
BTJ: So big. But I think, when you work with kids—I think Chris is used to working with kids. You gotta show them what they're scared of, and we're like—you know we're pretty grown. We know how to handle kinda working with a Minotaur.
AD: A Minotaur, yeah, we know how to handle a Minotaur.
BTJ: I mean, not like that, we're pretty, yeah. We handle minotaurs everyday. No, but I'm saying, you know, you have to at least act it. (Laughs.) That's funny. I dunno, we're pretty grown; we know how to handle minotaurs. That's the new quote.
G: We're getting the wrap up but I wanna ask Logan: you have a birthday in five days.
BTJ: Whoo! (Applauds.)
G: 18. You have any big plans?
LL: Um, I'm gonna be somewhere in the US, promoting this movie!
All: Yeah! Yeah!
LL: So see it for my birthday, guys. See it for my birthday present, everybody.
BTJ: No, we’re going to have a party for him.
JA: Chuck E. Cheese.
AD: We're planning you a surprise party.
LL: I'd have to say the best birthday present would be if everybody were to see the hard work that we all went through and to see this movie, and enjoy it. I know they will enjoy it, everybody who sees this—
BTJ: You an Aquarius?
LL: No, I’m a Cap. I’m a Capricorn. I’m a Capricorn cusp. Right, like literally minutes away from being—it’s crazy.
AD: From being what?
LL: For—isn’t it Aquarius?
BTJ: Then Pisces.
AD: And me, too! We have birthdays coming up.
BTJ: And then—
BTJ: Scorpio! We all get along mythologically and the signs.
LL: Hey, and the funny thing is: I’m the goat.
BTJ: Oh, you are!
LL: I am the goat.
BTJ: That’s crazy. I’m the fish.
AD: And I’m the fish, too!
BTJ: (To Logan:) And you’re the god of the sea! I mean, this is weird.
LL: I heard there was a lot of talk in the beginning. I remember when they were doing polls and boards for the movie that they wanted me to play Grover. I think there were. I think I remember reading this, and I was like, “Whoa! What? No, no, no.”
AD: And Rihanna was supposed to play my character.
LL: I mean, before we even auditioned.
BTJ: Really? Naw, dude. You’re definitely—
LL: Oh no, I think they had like Joe Jonas. All the Jonas Brothers. It was funny—like kids making it, it was funny. Percy, and then Grover: it would’ve been so weird. (Beat.) But yeah, how’s it going?
G: Alright, thanks a lot.
LL: Alright. Take care…nice talking to you, man.
AD: Thank you so much.
BTJ: Pleasure. Nice talking to you.